…State to appeal decisionOne day short of three years since Agricola, Greater Georgetown housewife Donna Taylor was murdered at her home, the accused, former Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Private Abiola Jacobs was unanimously found not-guilty by a 12-member jury at the High Court in Georgetown on Monday.Murdered housewife Donna TaylorThis result came after just over two hours of deliberations, but it is expected that the prosecution will appeal the decision following reports that one of the jurors allegedly grew up in the same area as Jacobs.However, when the verdict was returned before Justice James Bovell-Drakes on Monday, the court upheld the jury’s unanimous decision and the Judge announced that Jacobs was free to go. After the words “not guilty” were announced, there were contrasting expressions from the relatives of Taylor and Jacobs who packed the courtroom to capacity. The Taylors were speechless with astonishment as they moved their heads from side to side in disbelief. Meanwhile, Jacobs’ relatives praised the heavens, saying that the verdict was a result of prayer and divine intervention.After being freed, Jacobs in high heels ran out of the court onto South Road before jumping for joy and embracing several relatives and well-wishers as she trotted and skipped along Croal Street. In much jubilance, she also hailed many passengers in passing minibuses who recognised that she was freed as the Taylors left the court despondent.On the night of January 31, 2014, Donna Taylor was discovered with her throat slit, hands bound behind her and her shirt wrapped around her neck. The jury considered the testimony of main witness Samantha Sabbatt, a Briton, who narrowly escaped with her life as she was a guest of the Taylors. She had admitted that she had an intimate relationship with her friend’s son, Bertram Taylor Jr, at the time she was staying there, but stressed that she never encouraged him to separate from Jacobs. Jacobs was the estranged girlfriend of Bertram Taylor Jr.Sabbatt had recounted that on the night Taylor’s motionless body was found, she was in the bedroom of the upper flat of the home when she heard footsteps, voices and a male later shouting for her to open the door, moments after the lights were switched off. She had also testified, via Skype from London, England, that she had climbed up and peeped through the lattice work and had seen Jacobs in the light of the street lamps that shone into the house. She had also claimed that when the lights came on, she jumped through the window onto the veranda and sustained injuries in a bid to save her life. On February 1, 2014, Sabbatt recalled attending a confrontation with Jacobs where she told her: “Sweet girl, you never saw me.”Abiola Jacobs became a free woman on MondayHowever, Sabbatt had issues with the consistency of her recall which was highlighted by the defence which had suggested that the main witness changed her story from the time when she was interviewed by Police and at preliminary proceedings at the Magistrates’ Court. At certain points, she was sure that she saw Jacobs and at other points she said she saw a shadow which she believed to be that of the defendant.The jury had also considered the testimony of Taylor’s daughter, Marcelle Collymore, who claimed that the accused and her mother had a fight on the day of her mother’s demise. This was also confirmed in the evidence of Police Superintendent Joel David who similarly testified that Jacobs informed him that she spoke with Taylor on the day of her death. Superintendent David had also corroborated that the survivor of the attack (Sabbatt) had placed Jacobs at the scene of the crime.Jacobs was represented by Defence Attorney Adrian Thompson while State Prosecutor Mandell Moore led the prosecution’s case with assistance from fellow State Counsel Lisa Cave.
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Despite continued efforts to rid the local prison system of smuggling activities, authorities have once more found contraband items in the Holding Bays at the Lusignan Prison.This discovery was made during a joint exercise conducted by ranks from the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Prisons Service on Wednesday morning at the East Coast Demerara penitentiary.During the exercise, the following prohibited items were found: 32 improvised weapons; several razor blades; six lighters; three cellphones; three phone chargers; two SIM cards, and two containers of fermented wine.Only Monday last, searches of five prison facilities across the country, Lusignan, yielded over 180 illicit items. These included: 21 cellphones; a SIM card; a memory card; six earpieces; four phone adapters; a quantity of phone chargers; several packets of cigarettes/bamboo; 61 lighters; 12 smoking utensils; 46 grams of cannabis; four metal forks/spoons; 52 razor blades; six compasses; five pieces of broken mirrors; five pairs of scissors; a large quantity of improvised weapons; a quantity of nails; 12 bottles of fermented wine; three bottles of pepper sauce; and a quantity of stones, ‘shaving bics’, triple ‘A’ batteries and sand paper.Contraband smuggling has been a perennial problem within the prison system, and this is compounded by the fact that both prison and Police Officers are facilitating the illegal trade, which is said to be “big business”.While the authorities have been struggling to curb the illegal practice, there has been a breakthrough on the apparent network among rogue prison officers. In fact, only in October, four prison officers were arrested after they smuggled a bottle of rum and a pack of cigarettes into the Lusignan Prison the weekend prior. These officers were subsequently charged and interdicted from duty.In addition, two more ranks found themselves in hot water following the discovery of illegal items at two separate prison facilities.In Berbice, 1032 grams of suspected marijuana and 39 packs of cigarettes were found in the New Amsterdam Prison, and a prison officer admitted to conspiring with inmates to hide the contraband items that were thrown over the fence.Meanwhile, another Prison officer at the Timehri penitentiary was taken into custody after he was implicated by an inmate regarding the presence of 584 grams of marijuana in the compound.Furthermore, five other prison officers were relieved of duty back in July after they were implicated in an incident whereby a parcel containing cannabis had been thrown into the Lusignan Prison Holding Bay area.Director of Prisons (ag), Gladwin Samuels had disclosed in September that so far for the year, some 28 prison officers have been dismissed – 11 for facilitating or directly smuggling contraband into the prison system. The Prisons Director added that there were 12 ranks currently interdicted from duty, nine of whom have been charged either departmentally or criminally for trafficking-related activities.